Creativity is as omnipresent as it is elusive. It is an undercurrent in most human activities, and I've found that once you tap into it, you can feel its electricity everywhere. That's why I've decided to plug in and start a podcast about it. Welcome to my first episode! I call it Creative Musings; a podcast that explores the people, places, things, ideas, and forces that shape our creative experience. In each episode, I will interview someone about some aspect of creativity. This first episode is an interview with my uncle about my nonna, a lifelong musical soul.
Listen below and read beyond that for old photographs, highlights, and elaborations on the podcast. As it is my first time recording myself and sharing with the world, I'm both excited and nervous. There is a lot to learn and improve on, but all things must begin somewhere! Share with me your thoughts in the comments at the end of this page.
"Until they came out of poverty, they had chicken only maybe once a week, until her brothers worked on a chicken farm. So you can imagine what was a chicken farm like in Little Italy. I mean, what could it have been like?"
This website talks about the unlikely pleasure of raising chickens in NYC. This is a practice that stretches far back than the contemporary urban farming movement. It can be easy to romanticize immigrant life as colorful and flavorful through old photographs. But there were many harsh realities in these communities, as there always has been when people emigrate to the U.S.
Even combing through various archives and articles, I couldn't find any images of urban farms or chicken farming during this time period. Here's another website devoted to the Italian immigrant experience. If anyone has a book recommendation, let me know in the comments below.
"She and her brother would be given two nickels. Monty was ten years older than she. They would walk for miles, because they were both given a nickel for the train. So they would walk for blocks and blocks and blocks because Monty would say 'We'll just use these nickels to buy mars bars.' And that's what they did. I think my mother learned how to wait for goals; wait and sacrifice for goals."
Rather than ride the crowded trains, they would walk for the simple treat of a Mars Bar. Here is a great photo series on NYC subways during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
"Can you think of a really important lesson that she taught you?" "Yes....I wasn't making a lot of money at the time. We were all struggling. And I said to my mother, 'what were you thinking, with these ideals? It's always ideals ideals ideals with you. You know, you should've, learned how to make us learn how to make money!' And she turned to me....and said... 'The only thing worthwhile in this....world is ideals."
My nonna sang, danced, and played the piano. Music was joyful for her, and lent her so much expression. I can imagine it was also a delightful escape from the pressures of everyday life, marriage, motherhood, and working. Music is beneficial to all who practice it, no matter their skill. Here is a great video and article about music's benefits on the brain.
Then, I asked my uncle about a work of literature that was important to him. I'm thinking of having this as a reccurring segment on the pod, as I believe poems, stories, songs, and written work have the power to captivate us and change our world.
He recited from memory, the poem Love Bade Me Welcome by George Herbert.
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.
I then reference a poem which is important to me, Desiderata by Max Erhmann. There is a very interesting story behind this poem's accidental fame, which you can find on this website.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
The music at the beginning and end of the episode is by my talented, creative, and inspiring friend who leads the band Yo Soy Indigo.